Surrey Person Syncretism Database

How to cite

Baerman, Matthew. 2002. Surrey Person Syncretism Database. University of Surrey.

Access the database


Syncretism is a surprising yet widespread and poorly understood phenomenon in natural language. Given a regular distinction such as present versus past, as in English help/helped, work/worked, laugh/laughed, we might not expect to find instances like bid, which can be present or past (we now bid five pounds, though yesterday we bid ten pounds). The form bid, is said to be an instance of syncretism, a single form fulfilling two or more different functions. Thus syncretism is found even in English, whose inflectional morphology (system of different word-forms) is simple in comparison with many languages.

The Surrey Person Syncretisms Database documents instances where the marking of subject person on verbs is syncretic (two or more person values represented by a single form), covering 111 genetically and geographically diverse languages. The database also records properties which might be conditioning factors for syncretism such as tense/aspect/mood, inflectional class, gender of the subject, and syntactic context.


The database was created for the project 'Where word forms collide: A typology of syncretism', funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under grant number R000237939. This support is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank the European Thematic Network 'Language Typology Resource Centre' and the University of Surrey Research Committee for funding to support the original web interface.



Creators: Baerman, Matthew;

Title: Surrey Person Syncretism Database

Publisher: University of Surrey

Year: 2002